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The term holocaust derives from the Greek word for “sacrifice by fire” and refers to the systematic, state-sponsored attempt by Nazi Germany to exterminate the Jewish inhabitants of Europe, primarily during the World War II years of 1941 to 1945. It marked the final chapter of an escalating persecution of Jews that began as early as 1933. This entry begins with a brief history of the events and then discusses social psychological research that attempts to explain how the decision to act against the Jews might have been reached and why perpetrators and bystanders participated or stood silent.

History of the Holocaust

Soon after Adolf Hitler and his Nazi party gained power in 1933, German Jews found themselves faced with a rapid succession of decrees that increasingly ...

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